to be simple, to be free

Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free,
‘Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight.

~Shaker dancing tune, 1848


Acknowledging the good that you already have in your life
is the foundation for all abundance.

~Eckhart Tolle

Shall we dance?

My favorite task of the garden year is pruning back the faded blooms of my lavender plants. Each snip of the shears fills my nose with the delectable scent of lavender and spirits me back to a precise moment in time. When lavender’s in the air, the year is 1963, and I’m an impressionable five year old, worshipfully watching my mother dress up for a dinner-dance…

While I perch on the bed, she swishes around the room in her elegant gown, leans close to an oval mirror to apply lipstick and smooth waves of dark hair. She chooses a pair of pearl earrings from her jewelry box, clips a shimmering cluster to each lobe. Out comes the beveled stopper from her bottle Chanel No. 5; she sets the stopper on a mirrored tray, places a finger over the bottle’s small opening, up-ends it, then traces a droplet or two along her collarbone, a droplet to each wrist. She pulls open my favorite drawer, the one I love to peep into when she’s not around. It’s filled with dainty half-slips, full slips, and dress gloves for every occasion, around which are tucked a number of aromatic lavender sachets. From this fragrant treasure trove, she draws a pair of elbow-length, black gloves with jet black beading. She slides slender arms into each glove, tugs softly at the base of each finger to ensure a snug fit. She slips into a pair of heels, gives me a smile, gathers up her black satin clutch, and floats downstairs to wait for Daddy, who’s putting on his tux. In a state of total enchantment, I trundle down after her.

0183_Shall we dance? 2When my parents meet in the living room, they beam at one another – so happy, so in love. While Momma gives last-minute instructions to the babysitter, Daddy, ever the gentleman, cordially asks me, ala Oscar Hammerstein, “Shall we dance?” With a grin, I accept.

He offers a steadying hand as I place first my right, then my left foot on top of his size 13, black patent leather dance shoes. As we glide around the room together, my feet slip on his shoes’ shiny surface, and I can’t stop giggling. He takes small, measured steps to accommodate my much shorter legs and never once lets me slide off. For a few giddy moments, I’m the belle of the ball in my white robe and slippers.

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Momma’s all ready now, so Daddy twirls me in a circle, plants a kiss on my head, bids me goodnight, and goes out to the car. Momma blows a kiss into a gloved hand, presses a lavender-scented palm to my upturned cheek. She is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. She drapes a stole over her shoulders and rustles out to the car. Daddy waits at her door, closes it after her, strides around to the driver’s seat, gives me a wave before sliding behind the wheel.

My small heart, filled with dreams of dancing and music and beauty and romance, feels the pang of an evening’s impending separation. I press wistful hands to glass, watch my lovely parents recede from view, red tail lights fading to pinpricks before vanishing altogether…

Time is a peculiar thing, something I don’t suppose I’ll ever get used to. It’s an astonishment to realize the evening I describe took place over a half-century ago; that I, the baby of the family, am now twenty years older than my parents were in this photo; that my precious father –my living, breathing, perpetual font of love and security– is 90. How is this possible? Moments ago, my parents were young, and I was their littlest girl…

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Nudged by a photograph, or an old song, or a certain aroma, memories of life’s loveliest moments flit through our days on diaphanous wings. One whiff of lavender is all it takes for me to dance again in my daddy’s strong arms and feel the lasting tenderness of my momma’s touch.


This post is the last in a series of five in a 5-day Photo/Story blog challenge, to which I was invited by my friend, Kristine, who blogs regularly at candidkay. (Thank you, Kristine; this was fun!)

The challenge: Post a photo each day for five consecutive days and attach a story to the photo. It can be fiction or non-fiction, a poem or a short paragraph, and each day nominate another blogger to the challenge.

Rather than nominate a particular group of bloggers to this challenge, I prefer to open it up to any who would like to participate. If you’re interested, step right up, and give it a whirl!

look up, look around

Pinched for time last evening and in a hurry to get home before rushing to my next responsibility, I was stuck in traffic. The second hand in my brain shrieked, Hurry! Hurry! Hurry! to no avail. A hostage, I glanced up through rain-spattered glass…

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And then I saw them – a magnificent flock of geese. Thirty birds, maybe more, soared serenely over my temporary, insignificant plight. Their perfect “V” form and wild, unhurried beauty erased the walls of my self-imposed prison, and I relaxed into the moment.

Hours earlier, I had posted Emerson as my quote of the day: Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything beautiful, for beauty is God’s handwriting. . . 


I scribbled the lines above in my journal over three years ago. What strikes me most about the entry is how vivid the memory remains. I can still see and feel every bit of it – the helplessness of being at a standstill in traffic when I was required elsewhere, the look of my rain-pebbled windshield, the majesty of the great flock that soared above me, the way my stress sank to its knees and surrendered to the timeless beauty of wild geese in flight…

It’s a moment I happened to set down in writing, but even if I hadn’t penciled it into my journal, it would live with me still. I find that whenever my path intersects with nature, the moment seeps in, my inner fire reignites, and the lessons I draw remain.

The natural world reaches out to each of us, every day. But let’s face it, life is demanding. We have jobs, obligations, responsibilities – we care for aging parents, we nurture the sick; we volunteer, show up for meetings and events; we punch a clock, ferry our children to and from practices; we rush headlong from one thing to the next.

Modern life sets a breathless pace, to be sure. But if all we do is run, we will run down. When it feels like there aren’t enough hours in the day, when circumstances collide and conspire to overwhelm us, it’s of vital importance to take a few moments for ourselves and connect with the beauty of the natural world.

When the pressures du jour worry and weary you, pause for a moment, look up, look around…

For you, the first rays of returning sun offer the gift of another new day; birds take wing across your skies; sunset opens its arms to you; moonlight whispers a benediction.

Nature is the soul’s power source; her outlets are many, and access is unlimited. Do yourself a daily kindness – open your eyes, plug in, and recharge.

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[This post is the third in a series of five in a 5-day Photo/Story blog challenge. I was invited to this challenge by my friend, Kristine, who blogs regularly at candidkay.]